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Adoor Gopalakrishnan at UWI

Indian filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan speaks at the screening of his film Four Women, which took place yesterday at UWI

How do you know when you’re in the presence of a Great Artist? Yesterday afternoon at the School of Education at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, the University’s Film Programme, in association with the Indian High Commission and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation, hosted the Indian director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, for a screening of his TTFF entry, Four Women.

Having seen the film previously I knew how good it was, and I knew that Gopalakrishnan, with a dozen feature films and many short and documentary films to his credit, is one of India’s greatest living filmmakers. But it wasn’t until after the screening when this small, soft-spoken, grey-haired man took questions from the audience that his true genius was impressed upon me. The session, which lasted around forty-five minutes, could have gone on for hours, as Gopalakrishnan spoke with eloquence and wit about a host of topics, including the nature of Indian cinema, adapting literature to film, working with famous actors, and how much you can tell about a man by the way he eats his food. Here are some quotes from a conversation with an undeniably Great Artist.

“Indian cinema is widely taken for Bollywood. I am an outsider to Bollywood. It [Bollywood] sort of tries to entertain you, whatever you take to be entertainment.”

— On mainstream Hindi-language cinema (Bollywood), and his relation to it

“There is no one Indian cinema. There are Indian cinemas, [and] there are equally bad films in all [Indian] languages.”

— On the notion of Indian cinema as a monolith, and the idea that all non-Bollywood cinema is superior to Bollywood

“A whole country’s cinema is being misrepresented by Bollywood.”

— On the hegemony of Bollywood

“The DVD can never match film projection. Never. Maybe one day.”

— On DVD vs film projection

“What is written is meant to be read. What I do is for you to see and hear.”

— On the difference between written texts, and filmic adaptation of those texts

“They are all fine artists…. They are wasting their talents in bad films, and they know it. [So] they are excited to work with me.”

— On the actors, many of them commercial Indian cinema stars, he works with

“Just think…don’t ‘act’. I can read your thoughts in your face. That’s the magic of cinema.”

— His advice to his actors

“Ultimately, the actor is acting to me, not the audience. I am the audience.”

— On the difference between directing actors for screen as opposed to stage

“I never compromise.”

— On what makes him unique as a director

Date: Tue 29 Sep, 2009
Category: ttff news and features

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